How do you handle being criticised?

  | James Innes

How do you handle being criticised?

Alternative and related questions:

How do you take criticism?
How did you react when you were last criticised?
Can you tell me about an occasion when your work was criticised?
Have you ever had an idea that has been criticised by someone else?

The meaning behind the question:

Hearing you describe how you handle criticism will tell the interviewer a lot about you as a person – and about what sort of person you are to work with. Everybody needs to be prepared to accept criticism – constructive criticism – where it is due. The interviewer won’t want to hire someone who reacts badly to criticism – someone who isn’t prepared to listen to criticism or someone who takes it as a personal attack. If you have a problem with criticism then you’re going to be difficult to manage – and you’re not going to get the job.

Your answer:

While it can be a good idea (even if you haven’t specifically been asked to do so) to cite an example of a situation where you were criticised, you will need to choose your example very carefully – don’t pick a major blunder – and make sure you phrase it in such a way as to demonstrate that you learned from the experience.

Yet again, you need to take what could potentially be a negative topic and turn it round so that it becomes a positive selling point. Don’t fall into the trap of exposing a weakness. As always, make sure you come up smelling of roses!

For those of you who do have a problem with criticism, it doesn’t really matter how you handle criticism – it’s how you lead the interviewer to believe that you handle criticism which really counts!


If criticism is due then I generally welcome it. I’m very critical of my own work and I always appreciate constructive criticism and feedback from others, especially those who may have a different angle on matters or possibly more experience than I do. I was recently asked to work on a tender document for a new contract and, since this is not normally a part of my job, my experience in this respect is naturally limited. I consequently actually invited criticism from both my line manager and from a more experienced colleague. While they were largely impressed with my work they certainly gave me constructive criticism on a number of different areas and this helped me to perfect the document. We won the contract and I’ve definitely learned a lot from the experience which will be useful to me in the future.

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